Pillars of Wellness Part 3: Stress Reduction

Woman stressed over computer

Now that nutrition and exercise are dialed in, let’s dig into pillars of wellness part 3: stress reduction. Stress is kind of a strange thing, often people focus too much on it or don’t focus on it at all. We also have a hard time defining what stress is. A major misconception is that stress is only emotional and has little to do with physical exertion, nutrition, and positive as well as negative life events.

Really, stress is anything that exceeds our resources, those resources can come from numerous biological and emotional categories. If stress overwhelms any of these categories, the immune system can plummet, the body releases an abundance of cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. You become more resilient for a period, then you crash and have to deal with the consequences of pushing yourself beyond your allostatic threshold for this period.


Managing Stress with Social Support

Social Support

Social Support is a significant resource for managing/buffering stress (4). Essentially, it boils down to reaching out to friends, family, neighbors, therapists or even strangers (hotlines, virtual chat, etc.). People who seek social support are engaged in an active coping strategy, in contrasts to passive coping strategies.

Active strategies are constructive and are often problem-solving focused. Passive coping strategies are palliative in nature and usually involve self-medication in some way: eating, drugs and alcohol, taking out feelings on loved ones, etc. (1).


Hidden Stress and Allostasis


“The term allostasis refers to the process whereby an organism maintains physiological stability by changing parameters of its internal milieu by matching them appropriately to environmental demands 2”. Think of allostasis as a rubber band that bends and flexes as you pull it and then returns to its original state at rest. It differs from the term homeostasis, which is your body’s preferred state of equilibrium or balance. Homeostasis is the rubber band and allostasis is the rubber band’s ability to adapt and return to normal.

Allostatic load is how much ‘wear and tear’ your body can handle through repeated adaptation responses activated during stressful situations.